Spuds, a way to keep kids off the streets

By Dale Hart, Beacon intern / June 24, 2013

spp kids -Athlone lotA slightly more unconventional role for the sweet potato these days is keeping kids off the streets.

The Sweet Potato Project, an entrepreneurial effort at community reform headed by Sylvester Brown and the North Area Community Development Corporation aims to do just that.

Running for its second consecutive year, the project attempts to stem the tide of African-American youth into the judicial system by promoting a self-sustainable economic program within local communities.

On a recent Saturday morning, participants planted a crop of sweet potatoes in the O’Fallon, Penrose and Greater Ville neighborhoods. They’ll grow them, create ideas about how to transform them into a marketable product and sell them back to the community.

But the whole project encompasses far more than just selling spuds.

“The Sweet Potato Project shows kids that they have options outside their doors,” said Brown, founder and director of the program. “Many of them see the illegal drug trade and criminal activities as the only methods for making money out there.”